CITY HALL — The city will pay $5.75 million to a man who was paralyzed when a tree limb fell on him in Lincoln Park in 2011.
The Finance Committee approved the settlement Monday for Erick Leon, a Jimmy John's deliveryman bicycling in August 2011 on the 500 block of West Grant Place in Lincoln Park when a branch fell from a tree on the parkway and struck him. He was paralyzed from the waist down in what Ald. Edward Burke (14th), chairman of the Finance Committee, called "a tragic case" that left Leon with "huge medicals and longtime needs for care."
According to Leslie Darling, of the Law Department, it proved especially damning to the city that Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) had written letters warning about the tree before the accident.
"That was certainly part of the evidence that led to our moving toward settling on this," Darling said after the settlement received committee approval. She added there had been "a number of calls about this tree," along with "a 311 complaint that had actually been closed out on a clerical error."
Smith had formally complained about the tree the previous October and followed that with a letter to the Department of Streets and Sanitation in June before the accident.
According to Darling, the city had inspected the tree in October 2010 and found it sound. A city expert insisted "we couldn't have seen the rot" because it was at the top of the tree. But that was contested in Leon's suit.
"We're not admitting any wrongdoing" as part of the settlement, Darling added. She said the Law Department had not recommended any change in practices for Streets & San. "Our expert determined our arborists and tree-trimming system meet the standards," she added.